Volume 15, 
April, 2017


Stop Pushing That Boulder Uphill
Five ways to generate excitement for new initiatives


Sheila Mello and Wayne Mackey

Let’s say you read a fascinating book about a new approach to solving a prickly development problem. You start following the author on LinkedIn because her ideas resonate. You attend a free Webinar and hear about how you might apply her approach at your organization. You inquire about engaging her services for a project.

Unless you work alone in a cave, this is probably the point when you need to involve colleagues. The head of R&D needs to approve the project. The VP of finance needs to sign off on the budget. And you’ll need help from colleagues in various departments to put the plan into action.

How can you get everyone as excited about the new approach as you are? 

We’ve been through this kind of situation many times with our clients. So many times, in fact, that change management is one of our practice areas.

The approaches we’ve developed to initiating change and getting buy-in apply to far more than product development. They can help drive organizational change of any kind.

Whether you’re selling a new video game or a new approach to product development, your challenge is to get the buyers to come to you already wanting the goods.  You can apply the classic techniques of pull marketing, or creating demand for whatever you’re selling, to bring reluctant participants to you already eager for change. Read on to learn how five ideas from the marketing world can help drive sustained change at your organization.

Five ways to create demand for change

Illustrate the pain.

Ask questions. Help people see that whatever issue you’re trying to address is a problem for them too. Ideally, you will begin this process before choosing a solution, so stakeholders become part of deciding how to solve the problem. But even if you already have proposed a fix, you can initiate buy-in by helping other team members start to feel the same pain that drove you to desire change.

Start small. 

Begin with a pilot project. This lets you focus on what works and what doesn’t. Pilot projects require fewer resources and area easier to manage. The stakes are lower. You can work out the kinks with a pilot. And successful pilot projects become showcases that get everyone interested in broader rollouts. 

Show, don’t tell.

Plaster your success on the walls. A few years ago we worked with a company on a pilot MDPD project. At the end of the project, the team framed pictures of the image diagrams and hung them around the office. When people who hadn’t been involved in the pilot saw the diagrams, they wanted to be able to understand their customers in the same way as the participants in the pilot. Soon, they were clamoring to be involved.

Make a video. Beckman Coulter used PDC's VOC process to create its next-generation diagnostic system. As part of the rollout, they created a video documenting the process. We still use that video to illustrate what it’s like in the trenches of a project, and [the video helped drive institutionalization of the process at Beckman Coulter.] There’s no substitute for seeing change happen and hearing directly from the people invovled.

Measure and recognize.

If you don’t measure it, it didn’t happen. We’re big on metrics for lots of reasons. In the context of initiating and sustaining change, measurement becomes yet another way to demonstrate success. Set goals before you begin. Then track your progress. When you’re done, you can report the project’s success based on quantifiable gains.

Everybody likes a pat on the back. In the case of instigating change, recognition can serve as a motivator and can help generate the pull that draws others to want to create change. Reward your key contributors. Set up systems of recognition, whether monetary or in the form of public acknowledgement.

Rinse and repeat.

Don’t stop just because you’ve had one success. Maybe the pilot project didn’t convince everyone. Or maybe you’re getting pushback because of budget issues because no matter how enticing a project, sometimes this year’s budget is already allocated. But keep asking. If you don’t put in a request for next year’s budget, then your project will never become a priority. And don’t assume that one or two demonstrations of your pilot project’s success will convince everyone. Remember how many exposures to a message it takes to make an impression and convince someone to “buy” what you’re selling. 

Think how hard it is to push the proverbial boulder up a hill. It’s so much easier when you have a team at the top of the hill helping to pull. To initiate and sustain change without exhausting yourself , borrow a page from the marketer’s handbook. Work on creating internal demand and get your internal allies to help you move the dial on change.

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